KLRU News Briefs: Teaching Language Through Dance, Lawmakers Dive into Shark Fin Debate

This weekend during PBS NewsHour, we talk to the Austin native behind Dance Another World, an English immersion non-profit taught through dance. Plus, The Texas Tribune highlights what happened at the State Capitol this week.

Dance Another World works with non-native English speaking girls from primarily low socio-economic areas. They currently teach dance after school at T.A. Brown Elementary in North Austin, but they recently received their vendor license from AISD, which will allow them to offer the program in more schools next school year.

The program is a mixture of dance, reading, and writing in English. 

“There’s so much research that shows the benefits of growing up bilingual. Language is such a mental thing,” says Dawn Mann, Founder of Dance Another World. “We know a dance is a story, so we will read and write our own stories, and then we’ll portray them in a dance. It lets the girls work on their English but put their energy towards the art and dance.”

You can watch that story in the video above.

This week’s Texas Political Roundup from The Texas Tribune centers around end of life care for pregnant women, the Senate budget, and the debate surrounding the sale of shark fins.

A House bill by Rep. Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin) would remove a line in state law that requires pregnant women remain on life support, regardless of their last wishes. “Marlise’s Law” is in memory of Marlise Muñoz who was declared brain dead at a Fort Worth hospital and kept alive for 62 days despite her family’s wishes.

Also debated in the House this week was a bill by Rep. Eddie Lucio III which would make the practice of purchasing and selling shark fins in Texas illegal. The House passed the measure, which now goes to Senate. You can see the Roundup in the video below.

KLRU News Briefs air locally every Saturday and Sunday evening at 6:30 during PBS NewsHour Weekend. Saturday’s story is part of KLRU’s American Graduate initiative, which is aimed at increasing awareness around the dropout crisis in Central Texas. 

Do you have an American Graduate story idea? We’d love to hear from you! Email us at CivicSummit@klru.org, post a comment, or tweet at us using #amgradtx. 

In the Studio: Overheard tapes Marc Maron (4/24)

Overheard taping announcement

Please join KLRU’s Overheard with Evan Smith for an interview with Marc Maron on April 24 at 4:30pm in KLRU’s Studio 6A (map). Doors open at 4pm.  The event is free but an RSVP is required. Entrance is based upon capacity. RSVP NOW

MarcMaronMarc Maron is a stand-up comedian, writer, and podcast host. He’s appeared on HBO, Conan, Letterman, and two Comedy Central Presents specials. His podcast “WTF with Marc Maron” is regularly one of the most popular on iTunes. Maron also stars in the IFC show Maron which returns to the network for a third season in May.

We hope you’ll be there as Overheard with Evan Smith continues a fifth season of interviews featuring engaging conversations with fascinating people. The show airs on PBS stations nationally and presents a wide range of thoughtmakers and tastemakers from the fields of politics, journalism, business, arts, sports and more.

You can watch past episodes anytime at klru.org/overheard.

Overheard with Evan Smith guests talk 2016

BarneyFrank

We love politics at Overheard with Evan Smith and a lot of our guests do, too. This season, as always, we’ve interviewed politicians, political operatives, writers, and journalists and one topic always comes up: the 2016 presidential race.

Watch the playlist below to hear from former Congressman Barney Frank, Senator Bernie Sanders, conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, Bob Woodward, political strategist and Obama adviser David Axelrod, and Mary Matalin and James Carville as they analyze the field of potential candidates. Senator Sanders is considering running for president against newly-announced presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

All of our Overheard tapings are free and open to the public. Our next taping is this Friday, April 17 at 5pm with Cokie Roberts. You can sign up here for our email evite which will notify you every time we announce a taping. You watch our full archive of past episodes online anytime here.

News Briefs: McCallum Named GRAMMY Signature School, Taxes and Tuition Debated at State Capitol

“We actually didn’t believe we were number one until later in the evening and we started googling things,” said Carol Nelson, Director of Bands at McCallum High School.

McCallum has been named the 2015 National GRAMMY Signature School by the GRAMMY Foundation, a distinction given to the school considered to have the best high school music education program in the U.S.  The award comes with a $5,000 gift. The GRAMMY Foundation creates opportunities for high school students to work with music professionals to get real-world experience and advice about how to make a career in music.

We attended the orchestra and band rehearsal this week at McCallum. You can see our story about their award in the video above and on Saturday during PBS NewsHour Weekend.

On Sunday during NewsHour, we’ll bring you the Political Roundup from The Texas Tribune. This week Multimedia Reporter Alana Rocha highlights a tax debate in the Texas House, and testimony in a Senate committee over whether or not to repeal in-state tuition for undocumented students. You can see that story in the video below.

KLRU News Briefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend, every Saturday and Sunday evening at 6:30pm. Our Saturday story is part of KLRU’s American Graduate initiative, which is aimed at increasing awareness around the dropout crisis in Central Texas. 

Do you have an American Graduate story idea? We’d love to hear from you! Email us at CivicSummit@klru.org, post a comment, or tweet at us using #amgradtx. 

In the Studio: Cokie Roberts tapes Overheard 4/17

Overheard taping announcement

Please join KLRU’s Overheard with Evan Smith for an interview with Cokie Roberts on April 17 at 5pm in KLRU’s Studio 6A (map). Doors open at 4:30pm. This event is free but an RSVP is required.

RSVP NOW

Copyright: ABC Inc.

Copyright: ABC Inc.

Cokie Roberts is a best-selling author, a contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition, and a Political Commentator for ABC News. Cokie co-anchored ABC’s This Week with Sam Donaldson from 1996-2002. She’s won numerous awards, including three Emmys, and was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame. Her new book, Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868, was published in April. She’s in Austin to speak and sign copies at BookPeople at 7pm.

We hope you’ll be there as Overheard with Evan Smith continues a fifth season of interviews featuring engaging conversations with fascinating people. The show airs on PBS stations nationally and presents a wide range of thoughtmakers and tastemakers from the fields of politics, journalism, business, arts, sports and more. Please join us and be part of the studio audience at this taping with Cokie Roberts. And don’t forget you can watch past episodes anytime at klru.org/overheard.

KLRU News Briefs: Truancy Starts Many on Pipeline to Prison, Texas Tribune Highlights House Budget Debate

Research shows young people who are involved in the court system are more likely to dropout and eventually enter the justice system. This is what people call the School-to-Prison Pipeline, and that is what our Saturday News Briefs examines. This story is part two of a story we brought you last weekend about the push to decriminalize truancy in Texas.

We spoke again to Mary Mergler, Director of Texas Appleseed’s School-to-Prison Pipeline Project about their findings on this issue. She told us the pipeline’s most common victims are minority students.

“African-American and Latino students are sent to court disproportionate to their representation in the student body,” Mergler said. “And what we know about African-American and Latino students is that they are already at a greater risk for being pushed out of school by harsh disciplinary policies. So, our same groups of students who are already at risk, are also the ones being disproportionately sent to court for truancy which we know leads them down that school-to-prison pipeline.”

Special Education students are also over-represented at truancy court. Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston), who chairs the Senate’s Criminal Justice committee, authored one of many truancy bills this legislative session and has been working on this issue for years.

“From a financial standpoint you’re going to pay now or you’re going to pay later,” Senator Whitmire said. “We spend a lot of money on criminal justice. If we would spent a fraction of that on early intervention [and] mental health? I can’t emphasize that enough.”

Once the students are ordered to court for missing school, they and/or their parents face fines up to $500. Texas Appleseed reports 80% of students sent to court for truancy are low income and therefore often unable to pay those fines. In Travis County, Justice of the Peace Judge Yvonne Williams sees some of the poorest families in our region in her courtroom.

“On this side of town, though it’s changing, the average person I see is not able to afford these fines. So to say that I’m going to make you pay a fine is like saying, Okay, fine the blood in me. I’m a turnip. What are you going to do? So you still have that problem,” Williams said.  ”You can’t pay the fine, so you go to jail. So that’s that whole pipeline. I start at school, they get me accustomed to going to court, and then now, I’m an adult, and what the heck? I’m going to prison because I did this or this. I didn’t finish school. So I’m in this underbelly, and it’s okay.”

Judge Williams tells families to plead No Contest, which enters the parent and child into an intervention program and the Class C Misdemeanor is removed from the child’s record.

“I am not going to be part of the clog that makes that happen. My court is never going to be part of that system that makes that happen. I refuse to cooperate,” Williams said.

Our Sunday piece comes from our partners at The Texas Tribune. Every Sunday from now until Sine Die on June 1, we’ll bring you legislative stories from the Tribune. This week’s Political Roundup from Multimedia Reporter Alana Rocha looks at the Texas House’s all-nighter spent debating their budget bill. Plus, a look at the early stages of Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign.

KLRU News Briefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend, every Saturday and Sunday evening at 6:30pm. Our Saturday story is part of KLRU’s American Graduate initiative, which is aimed at increasing awareness around the dropout crisis in Central Texas. Lydia De La Garza, who is featured in the piece, is a member of our American Graduate Advisory Group.

Do you have an American Graduate story idea? We’d love to hear from you! Email us at CivicSummit@klru.org, post a comment, or tweet at us using #amgradtx. 

 

In the Studio: Barney Frank tapes Overheard 4/8

Overheard taping announcement

Please join KLRU’s Overheard with Evan Smith for an interview with former Congressman Barney Frank on April 8 at 5:15pm in KLRU’s Studio 6A (map). Doors open at 4:45pm.  The event is free but an RSVP is required. RSVP NOW

Copyright: Michael Halsband

Copyright: Michael Halsband

Former Congressman Barney Frank represented the Fourth District of Massachusetts for more than three decades. Frank is known as one of the most prominent gay politicians in American history and was the first sitting member of Congress to enter a same-sex marriage. In 2010 he co-authored Dodd-Frank, the most far-reaching Wall Street reform bill since the Great Depression. His memoir Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriagewas recently published. Congressman Frank is in Austin to speak and sign copies at BookPeople immediately following our taping.

We hope you’ll be there as Overheard with Evan Smith begins a fifth season of interviews featuring engaging conversations with fascinating people. The show airs on PBS stations nationally and presents a wide range of thoughtmakers and tastemakers from the fields of politics, journalism, business, arts, sports and more. Please join us and be part of the studio audience at this taping with Barney Frank. And don’t forget you can watch past episodes anytime at klru.org/overheard.

KLRU News Briefs: The fight over decriminalizing truancy in Texas

“Texas prosecutes more than twice the number of truancy cases prosecuted in all other states combined.” That’s according to Texas Appleseed, a legal advocacy group which released a report this month entitled Class, Not Court,  outlining why they support decriminalizing truancy in Texas. This weekend and part of next weekend, we look at the different sides of this issue, and try to find out why these students are missing school.

The law currently states that when a child has unexcused absences for 3 days or parts of days within a four-week period, the school can refer the child to court for truancy. If the child racks up unexcused absences for 10 days or parts of days within 6 months, the school “must file a complaint in juvenile or adult criminal court regardless of any ongoing intervention,” according to Texas Appleseed. Truancy is a Class C Misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $500.

State Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston) has filed yet another bill this session to decriminalize truancy. Whitmire’s Senate Bill 106 would make truancy a civil, rather than criminal, offense and would set up early intervention programs to work with the child before they get to court. He authored a similar bill last session. It passed both chambers but was vetoed by Governor Perry. SB106 is scheduled for public hearing this Tuesday, March 31.

“To criminalize [truancy] I think is nuts,” Senator Whitmire said. “I don’t think it helps the family, it certainly profiles the family [and] the student, and I think there’s a better way. We need to get involved in the root cause of the truancy.”

“In most cases truancy is a problem that can be best addressed in the school setting with school officials and the family working together to resolve the underlying issues, bringing in or referring a student to non-profit organizations or other groups when appropriate, but court referral can be, or should be, a very last resort,” Mary Mergler, Director of Appleseed’s School-to-Prison Pipeline Project said.

Many of the people we spoke to mentioned that some districts use an automated system to track absences. We spoke to Lydia De La Garza, Truancy Specialist at Manor ISD. She told us that isn’t the case in Manor.

“At one point when I first moved to Manor, truancy filings were up to 300-400 a year. And so since I came, we cut it in half. Altogether it’s because of my position and providing those interventions and making sure we’re filing on the correct students. It was a computer generated system and it was probably like how other school districts in other areas are probably doing right now,” De La Garza said.

For her, filing for truancy is always the last resort, but sometimes a necessary one.

“So finally when I get to court, then it’s like ‘okay all of these efforts have been done. I need you to help me either make them understand that school is important and that they need to follow through with certain programs.’ Because sometimes they won’t follow through with a certain program of getting involved. Yes, me administering the programs to them is one thing. But then them actually enrolling it, I need more support of a judge to say ‘no, you need to come to these parent workshops.’ And also, working with the student to get enrolled. So we have to investigate that,” De La Garza said.

Manor’s cases end up in the Travis County Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 courtroom in front of Judge Yvonne Williams. Judge Williams sees some of the most economically disadvantaged kids in our region and on two Wednesdays per month her courtroom handles truancy cases.

“We know the big picture is we want you to be good citizens. It’s been shown if you don’t graduate you’re less likely to be employed. So, we know that’s a good goal. Now, how do we make that happen? And that’s what I grapple with in my courtroom on a regular basis,” Judge Williams said. “What I’m trying to do is get behind those issues. I am in favor of decriminalizing.  Do I have an answer to what does that mean in terms of how to enforce? Not yet, but I think good people and good minds are working on it, and one of the things we have to do is make school someplace where children want to go, number 1.  We have to recognize the reason people don’t go to school is lots of reasons. There could be issues at home, issues with the child.”

Some of those issues are highlighted in Texas Appleseed’s report: 1 out of every 8 truancy filings is a student with special education needs.

“Many times what we see is students who have never been identified in the school system as having a disability, even though they have a long standing diagnosis, even though schools are informally aware of their disability, they’re not actually labelled as special education,” Meredith Shytles Parekh, an attorney with Disability Right Texas said. “What we’re seeing is courts getting these cases where the students have the disability, but the school isn’t providing any resources, and the courts are saying, ‘My hands are tied, all I can do is enter a plea for you, find you guilty or no contest,’ or whatever the student is pleading, and assess fines or community service or some other penalty, but it’s nothing that’s going to address the underlying root of what is causing the student’s absences.”

Judge Williams does explain all of the plea offerings to every person in her courtroom, in English and in Spanish through a translator. For special needs cases she says she can usually tell and is careful not to embarrass the student in front of everyone else in the courtroom.

“If it looks like a child has special needs, then I’m going to assign them to my juvenile case manager’s caseload. That person is then going to say ‘Maybe we need to put you with some housing specialists,’ or if the child is pregnant, “Maybe we should send you to any number of the teen pregnancy programs,’ or if it’s just a matter of ‘I’m not learning the way others learn, and I’m embarrassed so no, I don’t go to school, I show up and walk the halls,’ then we need to find what it means to put that person with tutoring, and maybe some other programs that deal with self-esteem,” Judge Williams said.

 Another concern when it comes to criminalized truancy is the so-called school-to-prison pipeline. We’ll take a look at that side of the issue next weekend during PBS NewsHour.

KLRU News Briefs air locally during PBS NewsHour weekend, Saturday and Sunday evenings at 6:30. This story is part of KLRU’s American Graduate initiative, which is aimed at increasing awareness around the dropout crisis in Central Texas. Lydia De La Garza is a member of our American Graduate Advisory Group.

Do you have an American Graduate story idea? We’d love to hear from you! Email us at CivicSummit@klru.org, post a comment, or tweet at us using #amgradtx. 

In the Studio: Senator Bernie Sanders tapes Overheard 4/2

Overheard taping announcement

Please join KLRU’s Overheard with Evan Smith for an interview with Senator Bernie Sanders on April 2 at 8:45am in KLRU’s Studio 6A (map). Doors open at 8:15am.  The event is free but an RSVP is required. RSVP NOW

BernieSandersSenator Bernie Sanders is the junior senator from Vermont. He was re-elected to his second term in 2012. Sanders is the longest-serving Congressional Independent in US history. Before joining the Senate he served 16 years in the House representing Vermont’s at-large district. Senator Sanders identifies himself as a Democratic Socialist and is a champion of progressive causes. In 2014 he told The Nation he’s “prepared to run” for president in 2016.

We hope you’ll be there as Overheard with Evan Smith begins a fifth season of interviews featuring engaging conversations with fascinating people. The show airs on PBS stations nationally and presents a wide range of thoughtmakers and tastemakers from the fields of politics, journalism, business, arts, sports and more. Please join us and be part of the studio audience at this taping with Senator Bernie Sanders. And don’t forget you can watch past episodes anytime at klru.org/overheard.

This Overheard taping is co-presented with The Texas Tribune and will be livestreamed as part of its Conversation Series. Tune in to watch or find more event information at texastribune.org/events.

KLRU News Briefs: EdTech in Spotlight at SXSWedu, Senate and House Pass Key Bills

SXSWedu is turned 5 this year, and at this year’s conference everyone was buzzing about education technology. One session, hosted by EdTech Action Founder and CEO Scott Lipton and Manor ISD Chief Academic Officer Debbie Hester, brought together educators, developers, and people from education businesses, to figure out how to put more “ed” into EdTech. We take you inside the room on Saturday during PBS NewsHour Weekend – and in the video above.

Hester told us Manor ISD is proud to have a 1:1 student-to-iPad ratio in its schools. But, she said, there are different levels of implementation depending on the class and the teacher, which is something she’d like to see improved upon.

“There are sometimes things that are purchased for teachers and then we’re saying ‘Here you go, go and implement it.’ And if we don’t give the professional development, the opportunities to be able to say this is how it’s going to impact your [teaching] then there is a little bit of frustration,” Hester said. “That’s why today was so important to me because I learned ways to break down those barriers.”

Lipton’s group hosts the third largest EdTech meetup in the world here in Austin. The session at SXSWedu allowed more networking among people from across the country.

“There is no good technology without good implementation and good teachers,” Lipton said. “The outcome of this is for everyone to stop talking and take action around it. We all made commitments to take these things out into the world, to stay in touch with each other, and try to make some of these things happen.”

Our Sunday story comes from our partners at The Texas Tribune. In their weekly political Roundup, Multimedia Reporter Alana Rocha looks back at key measures which passed in the Senate and in the House this week – including a “Campus Carry” bill and a border security measure. You can find that story here.

 KLRU News Briefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend, Saturday and Sunday evenings at 6:30.